According to a new study conducted by a federal watchdog agency, health care providers in emergency departments are not reporting all potential cases of nursing home abuse and neglect to the authorities as required by law. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG) estimates that as many as 20 percent of ER visits by nursing home residents for injuries that were likely caused by neglect or abuse go unreported each year.
What the Study Has Uncovered
If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home, you expect her to be well cared for. Unfortunately, cases of abuse and neglect are all too common in nursing homes. When a resident is taken to the hospital for medical treatment, health care workers there are required by law to report suspected cases of abuse or neglect to both the agency that governs Medicare and Medicaid and to the police.
However, hospital staff appears to be failing to do so in as many as 1 in 5 cases. The HHS-OIG came to this conclusion after comparing claims sent to Medicare for health issues consistent with abuse and neglect—such as dehydration, malnutrition, infections, head injuries, bruises, and broken bones—to official reports of suspected abuse made to state inspection agencies. On top of this, the study found that even when hospital staff reported their suspicions to inspectors, inspectors failed to inform law enforcement in 97 percent of the cases.
This Doesn’t Just Happen in Nursing Homes
The HHS-OIG also looked at the same kind of data for Medicare recipients who don’t live in nursing homes and found that injuries that could indicate abuse or neglect went unreported in 30 percent of cases. The first person to notice that an elderly person may have been mistreated—whether it is a doctor, nurse, social worker, or home care attendant—has a duty to report their suspicions to law enforcement or Adult Protective Services. Unfortunately, this new report shows that one in three of these people fails to report the potential abuse, missing an important opportunity to save the elder person from potentially fatal abuse or neglect.
What Does This Mean to You?
The nursing home or in-home caregivers who are paid to care for your loved one have a duty to provide the best possible care. If they fail in this duty and your loved one becomes ill or is injured because of it, you can hold them accountable. Unfortunately, you can’t always be there to see the potential signs that your loved one is being abused or neglected. You must rely on the federal laws that are supposed to protect our most vulnerable citizens. When the reporting system breaks down, the risk that our loved ones will be harmed and that the people responsible will not be held accountable increases.
Keller & Keller Holds Nursing Homes Responsible
Whether there was a failure to report abuse to authorities or not, if you suspect that a nursing home or in-home caregiving service caused your loved one’s injuries or illness, your first move should be to contact a nursing home abuse attorney. We will investigate your concerns and find the necessary evidence to hold the nursing home responsible for compensating your loved one for their suffering. Fill out the form on this page or call us today.